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Mysteries of the macaroon

Macaroon makers English Rose Bakery on the trickiest trade in catering

Published on February 9th 2011.

Mysteries of the macaroon

Emma Brown and Wendy Lewis are The English Rose Bakery - bringing a touch of Parisian glamour to Manchester with their delicious, brightly coloured macaroons.

“At the Chorlton market we have a gentleman who used to buy his from Laduree in Harrods, but he's glad that he's found us now because he doesn't have to keep going to London to get them."

"A lot of people actually think they're soaps, because we put them in glass jars at the markets," laughs chief baker Emma Brown, talking of course about her smooth shelled macaroons. Although these sweet treats are already big business in Paris and London, where historic Parisian tea salon Laduree sells hundreds of the chic cakes, macaroons are still a relative mystery to many people in Manchester.

Made of two crisp, meringue-like cookies sandwiched together by a tasty filling, macaroons – or 'macarons' to give them their French name – are a European delicacy. Loved by the upper echelons of sweet toothed society, they're more usually associated with the boudoirs of Versailles than Manchester's food markets.

Emma, an ex fashion product developer, first had the idea to create macaroons after a friend introduced her to Laduree in Zurich. She had originally intended to start a cupcake business in Manchester but, , but after realising that the cupcake market was already saturated in the city, she decided to try her hand at macaroons instead.

And unlike the cupcake – which has become the kitsch confectionery of choice for many – the art of macaroon making is an extremely difficult one to perfect, meaning that these gem-like cakes should resist the pull of the mainstream and remain an exclusive treat.

“It took us three or four months to practice," she says, referring to the notoriously difficult technique for making macaroons. "Now we don't really have to think about it, but we had months of chucking away batch after batch."

In October 2010, Emma's friend and ex work colleague Wendy Lewis joined the business as her partner, and now the two women work together making hundreds of macaroons at The Castle Hotel. "They're so complicated to make," says Wendy, as she grinds almonds to be mixed into the meringue-like paste for the crispy outer shells of the macaroons. “"Like Iif the eggs haven't rested enough they'll crack on top. Or the almonds have to be a certain variety. Even the weather can affect it. If the temperature's not quite right they don't dry quickly enough, which means they rest for too long and don't work properly."

Macaroons are made of a few simple ingredients:; ground almonds, icing sugar, caster sugar and eggs. But it's the precise techniques which are so difficult to grasp, leaving the delicacy in the hands of only the most skilled chefs.

Eggs are separated the day before, and then left to rest. The egg whites are then slowly whisked with ground almonds and icing sugar, and whipped into a meringue-like paste. The paste is then, using very precise techniques, piped into small, evenly sized portions and left to dry out before being baked for around ten minutes. The crispy shells are then left overnight, before being filled the next day with a variety of sweet fillings including chocolate ganache, rose, salted caramel, black cherry, and their most popular flavour,; the hot pink coloured raspberry macaroons.

Emma and Wendy sell their macaroons in a variety of ways, and have already carved their way into the wedding market with lavish macaroon pyramid centrepieces. They also produce beautifully packaged wedding favours; of two macaroons in a stylish presentation box, to be given to each guest.

The pair are also making their mark on Manchester's market community,; first with their stall at Chorlton's monthly food market, and now with a regular stand at the fortnightly Real Food Market in Piccadilly Gardens.

"We already have a lot of regular customers at the markets," says Emma. "Because they're quite a sought-after thing, you get real fans of macaroons , who keep coming back to us. At the Chorlton market we have a gentleman who used to buy his from Laduree in Harrods, but he's glad that he's found us now because he doesn't have to keep going to London to get them."

The English Rose Bakery will also be selling super gorgeous heart- shaped macaroons at The Valentine's Market, which is held in Piccadilly Gardens on 11 and 12 February. In their beautiful presentation boxes these make extra special gifts for sweet toothed partners.

Find out more at www.englishrosebakery.com

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